Just Imagine

As the parent of a child with developmental delays, I often get anxiety over every missed milestone. It started early: When will my daughter roll over? When will she sit up? And it continues today. I go down the rabbit hole of Google searches and lose sleep over each missed milestone, searching for solutions and comfort. When she didn’t engage in imaginative play by the age of 2, my response was no different.

I saw that my fellow moms of young toddlers were hiding holiday presents so their little ones wouldn’t find them. Mine were sitting on the floor in the hallway, unwrapped, and my 2 year old would pass by them without a second glance. Birthday presents from her first year were still sealed in boxes because she had no interest in toys.

Her therapists urged me to play with her and help develop her imagination. I did. And guys, I am not that great at this stuff, but I cooked pretend food like it was my job, and I called on my childhood ventriloquism skills to give voices to all the dolls and stuffed animals my daughter had. Despite my impressive ventriloquism skills, she never engaged and seemed unimpressed by my efforts, but I persisted. One day, she picked up the toy phone out of her kitchen set and held it to her ear. I am not sure if anyone has ever been praised so enthusiastically for holding a toy phone to their ear, but my daughter got the equivalent of a standing ovation at the Oscars.

By the age of three, typical children will be fully engaged in imaginative play and creating in-depth stories for their toys. They play more independently and even mix toy sets together, for example, Spider-man may come over for tea with Anna and Kristoff. At three, my daughter was doing some imitation and would copy the scenes I had created, but she was more interested in lining up the toys and reciting their names, rather than actually playing with them.

My daughter’s lack of imaginative play became more apparent at school, and I was genuinely worried. She knows who the Paw Patrol characters are because of her peers, but we have never watched a single episode. That’s right – I have a 3.5 year old and we have never watched a single episode of Paw Patrol! No need to be jealous though, because what we do watch is the same episodes of Barney, over and over and over and over and…well, you get the point.

The best part about working so hard with your child to reach milestones is that when they do reach them, it’s an incredible victory. It was only three months ago I took my daughter on a playdate to the Playmobil Funpark where she mostly marched around singing to a piece of plastic fence from the farm table. When we returned to the Playmobil Funpark this weekend, she was engaging in imaginative play with the toys around us. In April, she was singing and dancing and trying to put herself in places she shouldn’t have been. This weekend, she was actively creating scenes with the toys and pretend people. Her imagination was on full display and although it may have arrived late, it was beautiful to witness. The Playmobil place is a place I can’t imagine you’d see many moms tearing up in (unless they’re at the cash register), but if you do see a mom tearing up there, maybe this is why.

Check out some of our magical moments here:

Some tips to help develop your child’s imagination:

  • Find toys that replicate the real thing. My daughter started pretending to cook with her Melissa & Doug silverware and utensils. I found an old flip-phone (I am aging myself here) laying around, and my daughter loves to play with it; the same goes for old wallets and bags.
  • Use toys your child shows an interest in. My daughter loved Matchbox cars, so we started with simple races. Now she creates voices for the cars and they do more than just race across the kitchen tile.
  • Keep it simple. Start with just pretending to pour pretend water or eat pretend cookies. If your child likes to push buttons and make things work, employ toys that do just that. Slowly introduce items that may not be realistic like a unicorn eating a pretend cupcake.
  • Play. Play. Play. Get on the floor and play with your child, even if they don’t seem to show any interest. Keep playing. Stay imaginative and always encourage them. When you thought your child was going to pretend to eat the plastic pizza, but instead uses it as a steering wheel and starts singing “The Wheels on the Bus”, get on the bus and go for that ride with them.


Now serving fresh imaginations!


  1. I love your suggestions for encouraging pretend play. My eldest daughter look a long time to get into imaginative play, but her younger sister got right to it quickly. Now they play together with every toy they have (or so it seems!) This is a great, positive post. I’m so glad your little one has finally hit this milestone!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is really amazing to watch unfold. She actually asked for a toy at the store this weekend, which was a first and I was so excited I bought it of course.


  2. My son never had much imagination when it came to playing with toys. He preferred parking his cars and carefully watching the wheels move round. But he loved stories and we would take it in turns to make up a few lines and his imagination then was incredible. Even now his teachers are always complimenting the amazing stories he writes in class. All children have their imagination sparked in different ways and when you find the key it’s a magical thing x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. oh this is beautiful, I think it is so true, when they do eventually meet milestones in their own way and own time it is extra precious. It took my daughter April until she was almost 6 before she finally played with another child besides her siblings, it is such a joy now to see her have friends. #FabFridayPost

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have two boys and they couldnt be more different in terms of imagination. My oldest likes lots of prompting and assistance however my youngest has tonnes of very (vivid!) imagination!! Love the Playobil set, they are brilliant timeless toys #fabfridaypost

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually bought her her first Playmobil set on a recent visit and she has played with it so much. They are great toys for feeding imaginative minds. Thanks for stopping by.


  5. Some get teeth later than others, some walk later, your lovely got her imagination a bit later. Hopefully, it will last a lifetime! You gave her a gift that not all receive. You had me tearing up too. #FabFridayPost xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • In the last few weeks her imagination has continued to expand and it’s been really fun and exciting to see her playing with toys, digging through bins of toys, and exploring. She even gave a voice to a doll this weekend! Thanks so much for stopping by. xx

      Liked by 1 person

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